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Media Statements

Media Statement - Privacy Commissioner Responds to Doxxing of Staff of a Media Organisation

Date: 16 September 2019

Privacy Commissioner Responds to Doxxing of Staff of a Media Organisation

In response to recent media enquiries about a website disclosing personal data of staff of Apple Daily, including name, position, date of birth, mobile phone number, Facebook account, etc, and follow-up actions taken by the office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data (PCPD), the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data, Hong Kong (Privacy Commissioner), Mr Stephen Kai-yi WONG, has made the following response:
  • The PCPD is gravely concerned about the harm caused by doxxing and cyberbullying towards the individual victims and society at large.  In the same way as the other cases of doxxing and cyberbullying have been handled, the PCPD would timely refer cases which may have contravened the criminal provision of the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance (the Ordinance) to the Police for criminal investigations and consideration for prosecutions.  Regarding the website concerned in this case, the PCPD has already requested the website to remove and stop uploading all posts involving cyberbullying or illegal act, and has also liaised with the privacy enforcement authority in the relevant jurisdiction for its assistance and follow-up.  
  • Under section 64(1) of the Ordinance, a person commits an offence if he discloses any personal data of a data subject obtained from a data user without the data user’s consent with the intention-
    • to obtain gain in the form of money or other property, whether for his own benefit or that of another person; or
    • to cause loss in the form of money or other property to the data subject.
  • Under section 64(2) of the Ordinance, a person commits an offence if he discloses, irrespective of his intent, any personal data of a data subject obtained from a data user without the data user’s consent and the disclosure causes psychological harm to the data subject.
  • Contravention of section 64 of the Ordinance may attract a maximum fine of HK$1,000,000 and imprisonment for 5 years.  Doxxing and cyberbullying activities may also involve other criminal offences include criminal intimidation.
  • From 14 June to 16 September noon, the PCPD has referred 865 cases to the Police for investigation. 
  • The PCPD has also taken the initiative to contact the operators of the relevant online social media platforms or discussion forums to request them, and to ask the netizens through them to immediately delete and stop uploading those bullying or even illegal posts/contents. The PCPD has hence written to ten related online platform operators since 28 June, requesting them to remove all inappropriate posts. We recorded the first removal of such post on 30 June. 
  • Since the victims are numerous, and doxxing has become prevalent with incitement and intimidation involved, the PCPD has set up a special team since 24 July to search for links with illegal posts in face of this unprecedented serious situation.  Among the related cases handled by the PCPD, more than 40% were searched and spotted by the PCPD.  As of noon 16 September, the PCPD has written 49 times to ten related online platforms, requesting them to remove a total of 1,148 web links, of which 532 (representing 46%) have already been removed. The PCPD will continue to request the related platforms to remove the other links and will continue reviewing those platforms. 
  • The PCPD will continue to enforce the law under the powers conferred upon by the Ordinance under the longstanding principles of being fair and just, impartial, and without fear or favour. 
  • The PCPD has also frequently explained to the public the serious criminal liabilities potentially incurred by doxxing.  Since 1 June 2019:
    • The PCPD has issued 12 related media statements (with the first one being issued on 14 June);
    • The PCPD has given 26 responses to media enquiries;  
    • All the media responses have been uploaded on website:
    • The Privacy Commissioner has explained to the media or the general public for more than 45 times (e.g.: 《政經星期六》on Commercial Radio on 31 August and 29 June, 《自由風自由Phone》on RTHK Radio  on 28 August,《千禧年代》on RTHK Radio and 《在晴朗的一天出發》on Commercial Radio on 29 August, “Hong Kong Today” on RTHK Radio 3 on 23 July, 《香樹輝King  King傾》 on Metro Finance on 6 September, 《大鳴大放》 on Now TV on 8 September, etc) ; 
    • The relevant guidance and educational information on the legislation has been posted on social media platforms such as Facebook and YouTube.
    • More than 690 relevant reports on the Internet, electronic and traditional media. 
  • Regarding publicity and education work:
    • The PCPD has issued letters to principals of primary schools and secondary schools when the new school year commenced, providing them the publicity and education materials produced by the PCPD such as short video, presentation slides and leaflets, so as to assist teachers in conveying the message of anti-cyberbullying to students.
    • The annual “Student Ambassador for Privacy Protection” programme would disseminate the related messages to secondary school students.
    • A seminar on cyberbullying and doxxing was held on 16 September mainly for education practitioners and social workers, providing them with practical information to safeguard children from cyberbullying.  The seminar was attended by about 100 education practitioners, social workers and other parties who were concerned about this subject.
Links of the media statements: